Today, sports technology company FORM announced their first product, the FORM Swim Goggles, “a pair of premium Swim Goggles with see-through, augmented reality display that delivers performance metrics in real time.” We sat down with FORM’s founder, Dan Eisenhardt to learn how 14 years of competitive swimming led him to start his second sports technology company.
Dan’s previous company, Recon Instruments, was the world leader in augmented-reality eyewear for sports and was acquired by Intel in 2015, though it was quietly discontinued by the tech giant in mid-2017.
Dan initially founded Recon with swimming in mind but pursued skiing and cycling products because the markets were larger and the augmented technology was simpler to implement. Now, FORM employs many of the same people from that original team, using their combined expertise in sports-eyewear design, activity-tracking algorithms, and augmented-reality optics for a new HUD goggle.
Why are the FORM swim goggles different?
Dan Eisenhardt: For swimming this product is night and day. It gives you all the metrics you need, while you swim.
When it comes to swimming, I would not release this product if it wasn’t ready for the elite swimmer. Whereas for skiing it was an experience, for cycling it sounded like a good idea—to see metrics and take pictures—but now that I’ve started riding, I realize none of that really matters.
What problem do they solve?
DE: We focused on solving the key problems for swimmers: The metrics you’re used to getting in cycling and running are time and distance and splits, and you’re getting it in real time. But in swimming, you have a sport that is determined by hundredths of seconds, and you have no access to those metrics? A wristwatch is supposed to be the answer to that, but you have no access to it [while swimming], and it messes with your stroke.
How do the FORM swim goggles work?
DE: There’s a display inside the goggle and a computer and it does everything automatically. So let’s say you’re doing 10 x 100 on 1:30, the first 100 it says zero, you push off and the clock starts counting [inside the goggles]. When you do a turn, it tells you your time on one line and the last 50-meter split on the second line. The first length the two numbers will be the same, the second it might say 1:10 but the last 50 was a 36.
There are three dashboards, your swim dashboard, turn dashboard, and rest dashboard, and you can program each of them for whatever [metrics] you want to see. The top metric will always be the timer because in swimming it is always about time. Then if you want to see your stroke rate or total distance in the workout or pace in your interval, you can switch those out [using the accompanying iPhone app].
What’s under the hood?
DE: We knew we couldn’t rely on standard algorithms because there’s so many different scenarios. This is all automated. It knows everything you’re doing. Start, stop turn, rest, it tracks everything. How do you account for any event in the pool? You can’t, it’s infinite. We had to use AI. So we basically collected a ton of data, video recorded with a time stamp and sensor recording with a time stamp, and we manually tagged all the data and then fed it into an AI. The machine learning then came up with a way to gauge based on that sensor input what it is you are actually doing. We have very high accuracy. We are much more accurate than any wrist watch out there too.
How do you adjust for face types?
DE: This was a big problem. If we couldn’t design a goggle that everyone could wear, then what’s the point in having the device. For all the goggles we have produced, I moved almost my entire team from Intel so we have all that expertise from over 10 years to figure it out.
I’m probably the pickiest person when it comes to goggles so they had to be perfect. The team looked at premium materials for the seal and the lenses and how they could fit different types of faces. The first [prototype] I tried was okay and then we made changes until I thought, “These are pretty good.”. Then when I went back to my old [Swedish style] goggles, I couldn’t even wear them anymore.
Of course there’s a little bit of weight on one side from the computer, but you get used to it. Even faster, I would say, than when you start running with a watch, because the goggles don’t change anything about how you swim.
Triathletes and open-water swimmers, bear in mind that the tech in these new HUD goggles only works for pool swimming, as the speed and distance is based off of pool lengths. With that said, open-water capabilities are in the works.
The HUD goggles are available for order and shipping on August 7 for $200 at Formswim.com. Check back to Triathlete.com for more info as we approach the ship date, including an extensive, hands-on review with the FORM swim goggles.